While pretty much every day we have ever been in Swaziland is impacting, there are days that stand out as defining moments. Today felt like one of those days. The best way I think we could summarize our day is a collision of emotions.
On one side, we had an incredible day full of joy, laughter, dance, singing, and countless smiles. We played hard today. At one point I walked the care point grounds and was amazed to see about 13 different activities happening at once. The place was alive! Music was blaring & kids were having a dance party with our team….well the kids were dancing….not sure what to call what our team was doing. Soccer games were happening. The building was full of crafts & painting. The lunch pots were smoking. The playground was in full use. The sights and sounds were beautiful! One fun moment was when Dina introduced her name to someone and they responded, “oh, like the last meal of the day!”
Not only did we play hard, but we had so many amazing exchanges of new relationships & reunited ones. A few of our team members had the opportunity to meet their special friends for the first time. A few of our team members had children attached to them almost permanently. What an experience to be so accepted by these children and to be able to give them such needed love and care. The significance of this I will need to leave to the images to communicate because it really can’t be captured into words.
The experience of joy & celebration at Bhobokazi today seems to have collided with another reality that hit home pretty deeply for us. While so much progress & good & care is happening, we were again hit by the honest reality that life is brutally tough in Swaziland. It seems so unfair that one group of people has had to endure such difficulty and sometimes it just seems so vast and endless that we can’t help but feel overwhelmed. We visited three different homesteads today that made this reality so apparent. A 14 year old boy that is raising 6 younger siblings alone on his homestead because he has been abandoned by his parents. Stop for a minute to think about this. This reality brought us to tears tonight. Another 14 year old boy that lives alone with his mother at a homestead, but more often than not has been alone himself because his mom leaves for months at a time to try and earn income to survive. She has now lost her job, recently lost another child, had to give another child up because she didn’t have the means to provide for him. The metal roof on their house has rusted out and every time it rains they have to spend the night standing up in order to stay dry.
These are only a couple of the stories that seemed to find us today and confront us with the reality of injustice in this land. These stories are not fair. It is not fair that we get to have what we have mostly because of our postal codes at birth. As we shared our hearts together as a team this evening, one team member simply said “my emotions are not describable”. Our hearts are full but also heavy & broken.
This doesn’t reflect the state of Bhobokazi. It is a care point that is thriving. Leadership has risen up through the care point and it is a place of hope & refuge for children. However, this does reflect the reality that each of our children live within.
Even in the midst of this collision of emotions, the things that we heard ring out at our team sharing are phrases like:
“I am so inspired by their faith in midst of this all.”
“These people expose how shallow my faith is. All we hear is how grateful they are to God for how he has provided for them.”
“They have more joy & gratitude than I ever have.”
In many ways today the children & families of Swaziland have given us a gift that we can never repay. They have exposed our own poverty. They have taught us what true “Grit” looks like. They have shown us such a genuine expression of faith and gratitude. These things have confronted us tonight.
We are so grateful for today. For its joys and for its heartbreak. Both are incredible gifts of the relationships we have here in Swaziland.
Thanks for journeying with us through our day. – Jon
Team member post & photos…..
As some of you know this is my sixth Swazitrip. Each trip has been a learning and growing experience. Sometimes learning is fun but sometimes it just plain hurts. Learning takes us down rough roads and drags us over rocks on the road. When I think of “Gritty” I think of sand in my teeth.
Since arriving in Swaziland I have been on two home visits. The first one was to a homestead I have been to before. Last trip here we started a new house (room) for the family to sleep in. At first we were going to do repairs to existing structures but they were deemed to be past repair.
Fast forward to yesterday. As we sat with the family we asked them the usual questions. How many people live here? How many kids attend the care point? And then the most important question. How can we pray for you? The answer stung my heart. The grandmother told us how the family would sleep standing up every night when it rained in hopes that they would not be crushed if the roof and walls collapsed. How should I pray when the answer stood twenty feet behind me minus a roof, door and windows and floor. I desperately cried out to God to give me the words as I began to pray.
“Lord keep this family safe, provide them with food to keep them strong and a way to complete the new house”.(Abbreviated version).
We left them with food and they thanked us many times for coming and spending time with them and praying for them.
Today I went on another visit and was equally not fully prepared for what we would find. When we arrived we found a solid house, a small field of corn and several cows grazing out front. I know we are sent to the most needy in the community but this did not seem to fit. As soon as we walked up to the door kids started to file out. They were so pleased to see us. The last out was the grandmother. Her face beamed as she greeted each one of our team. We all sat on the front porch and started to get to know each other. Our translator did a great job of leading the conversation. It did not take long for grandmother to tire of the delay and she began to speak perfect English. My questions were answered as she told us that she had quit her job as a teacher in order to look after her children and grand children (10 in total). Her husband had passed on years ago and she was left to care for the family without an income. She told us that if it was not for the care point that her kids would have to go to bed hungry. If the older ones were late coming home from school they would miss meals at the care point. Our reason for coming to this family shone clear. As we asked how we could pray for them she mentioned food and especially rain so her crop would grow. She invited us into her home and asked us to bless it and her family. I expected that we would pray and that was not what happened.
Once we were all in the family began to sing. As we sang along tears filled our eyes and the blessing and presence of God filled that little room. After several songs the room was filled with the chorus of many prayers pouring out to God at the same time. This was a first for some of our team but truly a humbling experience. We left them filled with knowledge that God was in this here and He would take care of his children in this place. – Bryan P